10
Apr

After lots of football and basketball during the NHRA off season, I was more than happy to be heading to Pomona to kick off the 2012 season. Lots of new drivers, teams, paint jobs and for me clients had me super stoked for the season to begin.

This blog is about two months late due to me being behind. I have a second blog I do for Toyota Racing that is always updated the day after each race. Click the below banner to check out the Pomona Toyota photo blog.

With Pomona being an easy five hour drive from Phoenix I always opt to drive. Not only does it save money but it allows me to drive my own car instead of some lame ass rental car.

Wednesday I had a quick team shoot with top fuel dragster driver Steve Torrence.

The team wasn’t looking for anything fancy, just a few shots of the car for handouts, team shots and some portraits of Steve.

Nikon D3s, 24-70mm, 100iso, f8, 1/1250th, Manual

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f10 1/1250th, Manual

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 100iso, f10, 1/250th, Manual

Lets move forward to Thursday with the opening qualifying session of the season.

Below, rookie funny car driver Courtney Force sits strapped into the seat of her car as she practices pulling the parachutes back in the teams pit area. This is an angle I have never been able to get before, a funny car driver in the car with the body down. In this case I was able to get it since a crew member was holding open the roof hatch and the car wasn’t running. I literally leaned on the car and held the camera over the top of her open roof hatch.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 4000iso, f3.2, 1/320th, Aperture Priority

After finishing the in car practice she climbed out and I got the below shot of her reflecting off the side of her tow vehicle as she took her helmet off.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 250iso, f9, 1/1250th, Manual

Below, NHRA pro stock driver Rodger Brogdon does a burnout in his newly sponsored MAV TV car during qualifying at the Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f6.3, 1/1250th, Manual

Not only were there new teams and drivers but for just the third time in the 61 year history of NHRA we had a new official starter. Below is NHRA starter Mark Lyle during his first day on the job as the man in charge.

Nikon D700,70-200mm, 250iso, f6.3, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

In the below shot you can see John Force (left) looking on in his fire suit for daughter Courtney Force’s first run in an NHRA event. As soon as she made her run he ran back to his car to get strapped in for his qualifying pass.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/12000th, Manual

While Courtney Force certainly has a lot of hype and media attention there is another female rookie funny car driver running the season. Alexis DeJoria in her Tequila Patron Toyota Camry funny car should also be a force (pun intended) to be reckoned with. With 2011 top fuel dragster champion Del Worsham working as her crew chief, Alexis should go some rounds in 2012. 

Nikon D700,24-70mm, 100iso, f7.1, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

While roaming through the staging lanes during qualifying I spotted Supercross star James “Bubba” Stewart checking out the nitro cars, below.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f8, 1/1250th, Manual

Below, following a championship winning 2011 at the wheel of the Al-Anabi Racing pro mod car, Khalid alBalooshi took over the seat formerly occupied by last years champion Del Worsham. With Del now retired it opened up arguably the best ride in drag racing. Should be fun to see how he adapts to top fuel.

Nikon D3s, 400mm, 200iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

When shooting on the starting line one thing that I am always hoping for but rarely get is the two cars doing their burnouts side by side. Due to each team having their own timing routines for their burnouts it rarely happens, luckily I did get the below shot of top fuel dragster drivers Bob Vandergriff Jr (near) and Terry McMillen doing their burnouts.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f8, 1/250th, Manual

Below, top fuel dragster driver Shawn Langdon (near) races alongside former teammate Morgan Lucas during qualifying at the Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. I think we will quickly have a rivalry between these two drivers.

Nikon D700,24-70mm, 100iso, f7.1, 1/1250th, Manual

Below, the NHRA safety safari puts out a fire to the dragster of Steve Chrisman during qualifying on Friday.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 200iso, f6.3, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Saturday we would be greeted with cold and cloudy conditions. Those are welcome conditions since I would be spending the day at the top end where heat waves quickly ruin images. The cold temps would eliminate nearly all heat waves.

Below, pro stock driver Warren Johnson does a wheelie in the shutdown area as the car bounces following no parachutes. Warren would keep the car under control and safely make the turn off at the end of the track.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 640iso, f6.3, 1/2000th, Manual

Below, funny car driver Courtney Force (left) races alongside Jack Beckman during qualifying for the Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 640iso, f7.1, 1/5000th, Manual

The car of top fuel dragster driver Clay Millican aims straight at me as he slows to a stop following an engine explosion during the third round of pro qualifying, below.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 800iso, f7.1, 1/2000th, Manual

Below, top fuel dragster driver Antron Brown (near) slows to a stop in the shutdown area alongside new Al-Anabi Racing driver Shawn Langdon.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f7.1, 1/1250th, Manual

Below is a good shot to illustrate the awesome paint job on the top alcohol funny car driven by Mark Woznichak. Mark is a professional painter so he always has the nicest looking paint jobs.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 640iso, f5, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

During the first round of top alcohol dragster eliminations I would witness one of the wildest and certainly scariest crashes I’ve ever shot. Driver Mike Austin (below) would lose control of his car and hit the wall and fly over it!

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 640iso, f7.1, 1/2000th, Manual

To see the FULL SEQUENCE and my play by play CLICK HERE!

Austin would be unhurt in the wild crash. Following a lengthy clean up, the rains would come and wash out the days activities.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/400th, Aperture Priority

Later that night during the NHRA coverage on ESPN2, I would get a little TV time courtesy of my Mike Austin Crash shot.

I didn’t get the chance to talk during the interview but it was still some solid press for me. CLICK BELOW TO SEE VIDEO.

Ok time for race day.

I was happy to see that “photo bombing” is still alive and well in the NHRA world as proven by the below shot in which Pro Mod driver Leah Pruett busts out a photo bomb as top fuel driver Steve Torrence fuels his car up….

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 3200iso, f2.8, 1/1250th, Manual

…. meanwhile the rest of the Torrence Racing crew is hard at work rebuilding the engine before the first round of eliminations.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 4000iso, f4, 1/500th, Manual

Nitro fills the air, below, as fans pack the Morgan Lucas Racing pit area while the teams warm up their cars before eliminations.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 320iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Aperture Priority

Below, funny car driver Tim Wilkerson has a fire under the body of his funny car following a round win during the Winternationals.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 400iso, f7.1, 1/2500th, Manual

Wilkerson would bring the car to a quick and safe stop and hopped out of the roof hatch (below) waving for the safety safari to spray some water.

Nikon D3s, 600mm, 400iso, f7.1, 1/2500th, Manual

Under threatening skies, top fuel dragster driver Tony Schumacher does a burnout during the second round, below.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1000th, Manual

Below, super gas driver Mike Hunt waits in his car in the staging lanes during sportsman eliminations.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Manual

Below, super gas driver Dave Pearson shows his game face as he waits to make a run.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 1250iso, f2.8, 1/3200th, Aperture Priority

Heat waves fill the air (below) as top fuel drivers Spencer Massey, right, races alongside teammate Tony Schumacher in the semi finals.

Nikon D700, 400mm, 640iso, f4.5, 1/800th, Manual

Final Round time.

In pro stock (below) it would be Greg Anderson, right, defeating Jeg Coughlin Jr in a close race.

Nikon D700, 600mm, 2000iso, f6.3, 1/1600th, Manual

Below, pro stock driver Greg Anderson celebrates after winning the Winternationals.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 100iso, f5.6, 1/250th, Manual

In the funny car final (below) it would be John Force, right, defeating teammate Mike Neff.

Nikon D700, 600mm, 2000iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

With a nice sunset in my background Force would climb from his car….

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 160iso, f5.6, 1/1250th, Manual

…. and celebrate with his first wally since last July in Denver.

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 160iso, f5.6, 1/250th, Manual

Closing out the weekend would be the top fuel dragster final (below) where Spencer Massey, left, would defeat his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Antron Brown.

Nikon D700, 600mm, 2000iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

As you can see, Spencer was a happy guy!

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 160iso, f5.6, 1/250th, Manual

Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 160iso, f5.6, 1/200th, Manual

Next  blog posting will be the second NHRA race of the season at my home track of Firebird Raceway near Phoenix.

Stay tuned!

To see all my images from the weekend searchable by drivers name CLICK HERE!

I have a Facebook page devoted my photography where I routinely share my favorite photos from each shoot as well as favorite photos from the past. Click the below banner to check it out. Be sure to “like” the page so you can be kept up to date on all the events I am doing!


 
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Check out my Facebook page devoted my photography where I routinely share my favorite photos from each shoot as well as favorite photos from the past. Click the below banner to check it out. Be sure to "like" the page so you can be kept up to date on all the events I am doing!